Samsung unveiled its highly anticipated smartwatch Wednesday. Here are the five start-ups that should be paying very close attention.
It's official: Samsung has unveiled the much-anticipated Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
The stylish watch, which connects to the Samsung Galaxy smartphone over Bluetooth 4.0, will debut later this month. It's feature packed: you can talk to the watch and ask about the weather. A unique video and photo recording feature will use the 1.9 megapixel camera to capture the moments of your day. And, you can even record voice memos at a meeting.
It's a smart device, and that could be a problem--at least if you're one of the five start-ups below who were pioneers in the wearable computing trend.
1. FitBit Flex
I like this thin-band activity tracker and wear one almost every day. It's a great device targeting a specific market--health-conscious people who want to keep track of their activity and calories. But that's pretty much all it does. Compare that to the Galaxy Gear which does everything the Flex does and more. The watch also tells you the time, can show you text messages and incoming calls, and also comes in a bunch of trendy colors. The Flex doesn't even have a display, unless you count tiny blips. That's going to amount to some stiff competition. FitBit does have one major advantage, though: an active community and good name recognition. And it may have another strategy in mind. CEO and co-founder James Park told Inc. recently that the company plans to invest more in a B2B business model by marketing to corporate wellness programs.
I recently wrote about how the MeCam, a life-logging camera device, is trying to create an improved version based on customer feedback. Well, the brand now has a competitor that rakes in $187 billion per year. What might save MeCam and other life-loggers like the Memoto is the software. It's not clear yet if the Gear can record useable photo and video from your wrist. Life-logging cams at least clip to the front of your shirt.
I'm sure Pebble, the Kickstarter-funded smartwatch, is worried. A giant just moved into the village, one that has a vast legion of customers already using Samsung Galaxy phones. As I wrote about a while back, the new Gear seems to have all the features I want: it lets you speak commands at will, can record voice memos, and has two microphones that should make it easy to make phone calls from your wrist. The Pebble? Well, it shows messages and can vibrate to alert you about text messages. Oh, and you can customize the watch face. Panic.
This phone finder system is pretty cool. There's a leash mode that sounds an alarm if you leave your stuff behind. The thing is, if the Galaxy Gear is a big seller, there's no reason to use the stickers if your main concern is losing a phone. The Gear watch will alert you when you leave your phone behind. It even locks the screen of your phone when you walk away and unlocks when you appear again. There are a bunch of other companies who make similar finders, including the Tile app. If they're not paying attention to the Gear now, they should.
I'd also be worried if I were Sigmo, a company making a translator box that connects to your phone. You speak into the device and it can say the phrase in one of 25 languages. Apps like SayHi already do this on the iPhone, but there's a good chance we'll see a similar app for the Gear. In fact, I'd use it myself--the ability to tell people to just talk into my watch is appealing. Besides, having yet another translator gadget to carry around when you already have a smartwatch doesn't make much sense.
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